Pores Clogged With Hard Sebum – How To Deal With Sebum Plugs

Taking care of your skin is no easy feat, especially when there are lots of things going on below the surface that we can’t see.

If your pores become clogged with sebum, it can lead to other issues like acne, so making sure they’re kept clear and clean is crucial.

What do you do with pores clogged with hard sebum?

A sebum plug occurs when excess sebum forms in a follicle and becomes hardened, causing forms of acne and breakouts. To clear out this follicle there are a few options, including gently exfoliating the skin and developing a consistent skincare routine.

Clogged pores can be tempting to pick at, but you’ll only be doing your skin more harm if you attempt this.

This guide shows you the safest and most effective way to fix pores clogged with hard sebum, as well as how to prevent them from building up in the future.

What Is Hard Sebum?

Clogged Pores: What to Do

Anyone who knows about skincare would have heard about sebum before, as this oily substance is at the root of so many of our issues.

Just underneath the surface of the skin are the glands that produce sebum, but on your face, they’re highly concentrated, which is why this area is where have the most problems.

When sebum develops, it rises through the pores that surround hair follicles, eventually making its way to the skin’s surface.

The purpose of this oil is to keep your skin moisturized and protect it from aggressors and the elements, but it doesn’t always get the amount of sebum right.

Glands that don’t create enough sebum will lead to dry skin, and those with too much can cause oily complexions.

Furthermore, when this serum builds up in a follicle it can start to harden and cause a plug or clog in the pore, also known as a sebaceous filament.

These sebaceous filaments can be annoying enough on their own, and when they fill with bacteria and dead skin cells they cause acne, dark spots, and pores that appear larger than they are.

People often assume that these clogged pores are blackheads and try to remove them as such, only doing further damage.

Types of Clogs

Clogged Pores: What to Do

Skin plugs are commonly found on the forehead, chin, and nose but can develop anywhere on the face. There are a few types of plugs you might encounter on your face after experiencing a sebum plug, each requiring a unique approach to getting rid of:


A whitehead occurs when the sebum plug completely blocks a hair follicle.

As the bump stays under the surface of the skin, it develops a white head full of pus that is visible from the top.


Clogged Pores: What to Do

Blackheads get their black color from the sebum being exposed to air and turning black, not because they’re full of dirt.

These occur when the sebum plug only partially blocks the hair follicle.

Acne, pustules, and pimples

Papules occur when a sebum plug gets inflamed and appears as a small pink bump.

From there, the papule can develop into a pimple or pustule which means it’s full of pus and will now have a red base, and larger ones are known as cysts. 

Keratin plugs

Keratin is the protein that liens your hair follicles and prevents infections in the skin, and it can also build up and form a plug, just as sebum does.

People often mistake keratin plugs for sebum plugs, but they’re entirely different conditions.

Steps for Cleaning Sebum Plugs

Clogged Pores: What to Do
Fresh and lovely woman washing her face

If you suspect you’ve found sebum plugs on your face, the best thing you can do is leave them alone.

You should never attempt to remove them or pick at the plug, as they’ll likely become inflamed and infected, leading to further issues.

The best thing you can do for sebum plugs, including preventing and treating them, is to keep your face clean.

A daily skincare routine that consists of cleansing and moisturizing your face, along with additional products you wish to use, will ensure your pores and clear and the oil and pH levels of your face are regulated.

Exfoliators are a powerful line of defense against clogged pores as well, as long as it’s a gentle formula that’s suited to your skin type.

You can exfoliate daily to remove dead skin cells, oil, and debris that might not be removed with a cleanser, ensuring that your pores are clear and free from buildup.

To take your skincare routine even further, consider adding a topical treatment like salicylic acid or glycolic acid to the mix.

Some people might find benefits from using retinoids like tretinoin and retinol, both of which are used to treat acne-prone skin and fight the signs of aging.

Tips for Staying Plug Free

Clogged Pores: What to Do

Healthy skin doesn’t just happen overnight, and even with the best intentions, we can’t control our body’s sebum production. There are some things you can do to keep sebaceous filaments at bay though, so check out these tips for clearer pores.

  • Always make sure you’ve washed away sunscreen and makeup at the end of the day using a cleanser. Leaving this to soak into your pores will cause oil to get trapped and harden.
  • Never share your makeup brushes or supplies with anyone else, and clean them regularly. You could be unknowingly spreading oil and bacteria into your pores every time you use them.
  • If you have dry skin, using astringents and other harsh products is the worst thing you can do. Your body will go into overdrive and produce even more sebum to try and even things out, which causes excess oil and clogged pores.
  • When you shower, keep the water temperature lukewarm and never too hot. Excess heat can cause the skin to dry out and get irritated, leading to further oil production and blockages.
  • Before attempting to try a new acne treatment, consult with a dermatologist first. These solutions can be harsh and you’ll want to make sure you’re treating the clogged pores rather than aggravating them.
  • Never pop or squeeze pimples, blackheads, whiteheads, acne, or clogged pores. You can push the blockage further down, inflame the skin, and cause breakages that bacteria can infect.

When to Seek Help

Although tempting to treat skin problems like sebum clogs on our own, we can do a lot of harm to our skin in the process. If you’re concerned about any issues your skin is experiencing, it’s best to reach out to a dermatologist or doctor about what to do next.

Dermatologists are trained skincare specialists and can help to extract a clogged pore safely and without damage.

They used special tools designed for extraction and have follow-up products that can be applied to reduce the size of the pore again.

People experiencing ongoing issues with acne and pimples should speak to a doctor for advice, as this excess sebum production can be caused by various things.

They can discuss various treatments like topical creams, oral medication, and other treatments that will help you get your acne under control.

Cleaner, Clearer Pores

Pores are prone to all kinds of issues and the best thing we can do for them is to keep them clean and clear.

Take the time to develop a daily skincare routine that cleanses, moisturizes, and exfoliates the skin, giving your pores the best chance at staying free from plugs and clogs.

The most important part of skincare is having a consistent routine that prevents issues like clogged pores and breakouts from occurring in the first place.

To help you develop one that works for your skin concerns, we’ve answered some commonly asked questions about the best steps to take.

Do I Have to Double Cleanse?

Double cleansing is the process of cleansing with an oil-based product first and then following up with a wash off facial cleanser.

Although it can be effective in removing all of the oil, dirt, makeup, and debris from your face, some people might find cleansing with this much thoroughness isn’t always necessary.

What’s the Difference Between Toner and Astringent?

Although similar in some ways, the biggest difference between a toner and an astringent is their skin type suitability.

People with oily and acne-prone skin will find an astringent better and those with dry and sensitive skin will prefer the gentler touch of a toner.

Should I Exfoliate Every Day?

Although traditionally, the advice was to exfoliate just once a week, dermatologists today recommend that you can exfoliate every day without doing damage.

As long as you’re using a gentle exfoliant that’s suited to your skin type, you should be able to use it daily to renew skin cells and remove dead ones.